Five months later
The broken amphora vase was from over two thousand years ago but its curses were as powerful as the day they were cast. Hermione had been slowly unraveling the magic for four days, careful to avoid touching it with her hands. The first curse upon it was a mirage. The second, of forgetfulness. And the final didn't have a name — it was the first she'd seen of its kind. It wove the magical signature of a dehydration curse with a Narcissus curse, which was popular at the time. Whoever looked into the vase wouldn't be able to look away. Dying of thirst in the process.
While she traced the runic signature of the Narcissus curse she took in the state of her workspace. More cluttered than was appropriate for something so intricate. She pushed aside the front page of the Prophet, eyes snagging once again on the headline. Chosen One to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. It was an exclusive interview with Pansy Parkinson, accompanied by a smiling photo of Harry with Professor McGonagall. Looking happier than she'd seen him — with the exception of when he was with Theo. The warmth radiated through her, nearly as strong as the day Harry told her he gave his notice.
It had been four years since they left Hogwarts together, after the battle. While she'd been back to take her N.E.W.T.s, Harry had only gone for the one-year memorial service they held for the fallen. And now he would return. Back to the place he'd always called home to do what he most enjoyed. With Theo, who couldn't stop drawing up plans for a house on a small patch of land they'd purchased outside of Hogsmeade.
Grimmauld Place would begin renovations soon. It would take some time, but Theo and Harry wanted to gift it to the community. For the students left without parents and those in need of an escape during the summer and holidays. A number of alumni had already requested to be involved. It was early days, but Hermione had already put together some lesson plans and reading lists for an immersive Muggle Studies summer program.
The vase she worked on was in several pieces, making her job more difficult and more fascinating. The painted sides depicted lovers in various states of undress. Harriet had blushed at the sight of it, but Hermione could feel the magic emanating from the clay. She'd eagerly claimed it as her project and scurried off to her office. Now she was nearly through with it. If only she could figure out the thread that tied the final two curses together.
Hermione was drinking her second cup of coffee when the memo arrived, in the shape of a swan. Crisp white parchment covered in little grey x's. The note in neat black script.
I'm calling in your first bargain. You agreed to skive off of work on the day of my choosing and that day is tomorrow. Since you're likely through with all of your work for the next week minimum, I assume this will not be a problem.
You agreed to the terms, after all.
She'd been sleeping when he left for work that morning. Dosing a little longer than usual. As it turned out, a midnight romp left her knackered and him energized. There'd been a cup of tea under a stasis charm at her bedside and Crookshanks curled atop her hip. The weight of the little beast comforting.
Now she had to finish with the cursed vase before the end of the day, otherwise she wouldn't get back to it until Monday. Not that it mattered that much — she'd worked through a half dozen recovered objects since the shipment arrived from Greece. A cave was discovered in Pelion by a magizoologist studying the migratory pattern of blue roan hippocampus herds. Inside was a veritable treasure trove of objects, cursed or otherwise.
She'd turned down the offer to be part of the extraction team. It would make things easier, if she went with them. She could split the types of curses fairly quickly and assign different cursebreakers to them based on their skillsets. But she wasn't quite ready to lead a full team. She'd told her boss to ask in September. It was always a good month for things to start. Until then, she was content in her own world. Fixing things that needed mending and researching the things she didn't yet understand.
There were plenty of projects to keep her busy. And when she was ahead on her work, she researched. Memory charms and Muggle books on memory. The best time of year to visit the Gold Coast of Australia. Someday, they would make it there. Until then, she would research. The portkey could wait to depart. She would make that choice when she was ready. And she wouldn't be alone when she did.
The laboratory was pristine. Every piece of equipment had its place, and the common ingredients and those with long shelf lives were nestled into cupboards with clear glass doors. Everything was temperature controlled. The Poisons and Potions department was home to several laboratories — one for each Potions Master. There they were given approval from the head of the division, Auror Bonham, to conduct their research and assist the rest of the auror department as needed.
Draco was working on a memory restoration potion.
Though he was loathe to accept help from anyone, he'd been assigned assistants he did not need and gave them tasks he did not fully believe they had the skill to complete but could remedy himself if and when they fucked up.
On Thursday Draco led two junior potioneers and a summer intern, a Hogwarts rising seventh year, in the basic steps. First, he had the intern separate the Jobberknoll feathers by size and color. The more vibrant the blue, and the more contrast between the dark and light blue pattern, the more effective the feathers were in potions. He only wanted the most perfect feathers. The two junior potioneers had been in charge of stewing the mandrake, something that Draco had them working on for a full month until he deemed their most recent batch satisfactory. Tossing out several other versions that were stewed too slowly, too quickly, over too high of heat, and on and on. He didn't yet trust any of them with the Galanthus Nivalis.
Most apothecaries sold a jarred version, but the stasis charms and potions required to preserve the flower muddled its efficacy. It was best to use freshly uprooted stems, from after their first bloom. As it was June, and most bloomed before the snow had melted, the best snowdrop flowers came from controlled greenhouses. Like the ones at Hogwarts. Draco traveled there the day before to obtain a supply from Neville Longbottom, who included a jar of honey in the parcel.
The powdered sage was a simple enough ingredient, though he required a fresh jar for each new batch.. All that remained was mountain river water, as its flowing properties translated well to potions for the mind. Lethe river water was used for forgetfulness potions, and its opposite was required here.
"If you'll observe this time— just observe," he added, when junior potioneer Marshall peered too closely to the cauldron. "I want you to make note of the steps as clearly as possible. I won't announce what I'm doing so you'll need to pay very close attention."
This version of a memory potion was more potent than those available at an apothecary or from a Healer. The change in potency, Draco theorized, could restore lost memories from years before. The current brews, like the memory potion they learned in sixth year, had to be administered within a short time frame of the obliviation to take effect. Draco needed to create one strong enough for an obliviation of five years prior.
The strength of the spell cast mattered, too, because the stronger the spell the more likely the memories had been removed entirely, rather than just suppressed. Deep in the mind of the spelled. Hidden in a different way than occlumency could hide things. Revealing suppressed memories risked harm — emotional, mental, and physical. The Janus Thickey ward at St. Mungo's held an entire wing of mind magic patients. Many of them longterm. He knew the witch who cast the spell he hoped to undo was brilliant, and it would be strong enough to resist tampering with reversal charms.
And so he'd spent months researching and brewing. Testing on willing participants. First to remove a memory from that day — a card shown to the volunteer for them to memorize. Later, testing memories removed from a month prior. From there the potency of the potion could be increased using arithmancy formulas, as could the power of the incantation. The reversal charm, too, could be used in conjunction with the potion. He'd gotten as close as he'd hoped the week of his birthday. Test results all positive. They celebrated with their friends at the pub before retiring to the new flat he shared with Hermione.
She'd made quick work of removing their clothes. Tossing them on her reading chair and the sofa, narrowly missing a very put out Crookshanks with her blouse. Lips insistent and hands clever. His touch still made her tremble. And hers was like fire, igniting the spark that had only grown between them over time. They started on the sofa before sliding to the floor. Her body rocking against his until they both finished. And when he thought they'd retired to bed, she emerged in a flimsy little number that he unwrapped like a new broom on Christmas.
It had been the best birthday he could remember. And he wanted to being memories back for others. The everyday domestic mundanity. The grand moments and milestones. The little bits of love and devotion. All the most important things worth holding on to.
The advanced memory restoration potion still needed extensive longterm testing, and he had thoughts on how to get it to work on her parents. But he was not quite ready to request a portkey to Australia and he knew Granger still needed time, too. That was fine with him. Good healing took time. When she was ready, he would be there beside her.
He dismissed his team at half four, once the laboratory was returned to his preferred level of cleanliness and order. Then he went to his office and shut the door. He shucked his white potion-making robes and rolled his shirtsleeves. It had been months since he bothered to wear a tie.
A few potions journals were stacked on one side of his desk, some with little pieces of sticky paper hanging between the pages to mark his place. Open on the desk was his personal journal, where he kept his notes and musings on the day's brews. He began writing, getting everything down so that he could review it on Monday.
From the second drawer on the left he pulled a fresh sheet of parchment and addressed a letter to Theo Nazari. It had taken him a few letters to get used to Theo's new name — his mother's name. The last ties to his father finally severed after weeks of paperwork and meetings in the Department of Magical Registration. Draco had spelled a bottle of champagne to slide into the rolled parchment and closed everything with the wax sealing kit they'd given him for his birthday. The champagne was to celebrate the announcement of Theo and Potter's move back to Hogwarts. He and Hermione would make the trip to Scotland in a few weeks, after they'd settled in.
Draco wrote his mother, once again offering to help her reach out to his aunt Andromeda. It was still difficult for her to leave the Manor but she'd been getting better at it. Last month he'd met Andromeda for tea with Granger. She'd come alone but wanted him to meet his cousin's son sometime. If anything could help sway his mother, it was a precocious little boy. One who could change the color of his hair with a whim. Andromeda said he was fond of a silvery blonde color, smiling as she shared that detail. There was a lot to make up for — mostly lost time. Lost memories that were never made.
At five sharp he closed his ink jar and set his quill on its stand. Straightening the carved frame on his desk. It was a photograph of Hermione, of course. Playfully reaching for the Muggle camera as he clicked it. Capturing her in the morning light. Another memory he kept where he could see it.
He shrunk his notebook and stuck it in his pocket before locking up for the night. Waving goodbye to a few colleagues as he drifted down the hall.
The door to the lift opened, depositing him in the bright atrium. It was packed with witches and wizards eager to leave work. And there, by the fountain, was Granger. Curls loose down her back. Snakewood wand in her hand, tapping against her skirt.
"Waiting long?" He asked as he took her hand. Lacing their fingers before joining the queue for the fireplaces.
"Not at all. I finished the vase today," she said, waving hello to a few people as they moved along. "Took me ages to untangle the final two curses but now I am the potential new owner of a mildly pornographic broken vase that is older than your familial line."
"Didn't think that was possible."
She laughed, the sound wrapping its way around him like a protection spell. "At least the traceable version. Records weren't kept before William the Conquerer, as you've reminded me on several occasions. How was the lab today?"
Draco furrowed his brow. "Beginning to understand why Snape wasn't too fond of teaching."
"He was, in his way. And I know you like it, you're just being—"
"Tell me how much you enjoy younger people mucking up your work. This is why neither of us could ever do what Potter's doing and teach at Hogwarts."
One of a few reasons, at least. The line moved quickly, but they were still a dozen places from the front.
"Fair enough. What did you want to do tomorrow?" She asked.
"I have a few ideas." He didn't have anything scheduled. Sometimes the best memories were unplanned. He had room for all of them. Especially the ones with her.
"Alright then," Hermione smiled, her face turned to his. The green flames of the floo illuminating them then fading. "I trust you."
The pendant he'd made her glowed faintly against her chest. Brighter as he leaned closer.
"Hmm, I'll hold you to that."
With a gentle hand he reached up and wiped a smudge of ink from her cheek.
The title of this story comes from As You Like It. Act V, Scene i.
I will kill thee a hundred and fifty ways: therefore tremble and depart.
Thank you for reading. I'm so grateful for every review and favorite. I'll try to keep this brief!
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